Saint Leo University Makes a Difference, Ships Bottle Caps for Recycling

Posted inEducationNewsSaint Leo University

Close to 15,000 pounds of plastic donated for Caps of Love Project to provide wheelchairs

Heidi D’Ambrosio, organizer of the project and senior coordinator for Student Affairs; some of the students who helped with Caps of Love; Dr. William J. Lennox Jr., university president; and Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, provost and senior vice president of Academic & Student Affairs
Photo credit: Benjamin Watters.

SAINT LEO – Saint Leo University is focused on helping others and saving the planet—one plastic cap at a time. On Thursday, March 22, the university shipped about 15,000 pounds of bottle caps for recycling.

The university again collected plastic bottle caps for donation for Caps of Love, a Florida-based, nonprofit organization. The proceeds from recycling the plastic are used to purchase new and refurbished wheelchairs for children with mobility issues. Students, faculty, and staff were joined by local organizations, schools, and businesses in the collection of plastic lids.

The tops from bottles of soft drinks, laundry soap, shampoo, prescriptions, and other items as well as peanut butter jars, yogurt cups, and more, were among the boxes loaded onto a truck and shipped to Commercial Recycling in Tampa. The stash of bottle caps were collected from April 2017 to March 2018.

The goal of the Caps of Love organization is to, “educate the public on how to identify and recycle correctly and to provide wheelchairs to the physically challenged under the age of 21,” in the United States, according to its website.

Saint Leo students and staff sorted through transparent and colored bottle caps and separated them into three types. The main types of plastic Caps of Love recycles are: Polypropylene No. 5, Polyethylene No. 2, and Polyethylene No. 4.

Saint Leo University was assisted by many community organizations, schools, businesses, and government agencies from Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Citrus counties. Supporters gathered for a send-off celebration on March 22. A fork-lift was used to move the boxes to the shipping truck. Photo credit: Benjamin Watters.

“This year we have focused on educating the community about the importance of recycling while teaching them how to sort [the types of plastic],” said organizer Heidi D’Ambrosio, senior coordinator of Student Affairs at Saint Leo University. “I went to Bishop McLaughlin High School and participated in their service day. I took student worker Joe Carney with me as well as an admissions counselor. And I was invited to speak to the Tampa Downtown Lions Club district meeting about the project.

“My goal is to get this generation excited about recycling,” D’Ambrosio said.

The offices of Student Affairs and Residence Life started Cappin’ Thursdays, and students would come to the Student Activities Building and sort through the thousands of donated plastic bottle caps. Even Dr. William J. Lennox Jr., university president, pitched in to help sort. “We were able to offer more than 130 hours of community service,” D’Ambrosio said.

Some of the contributors to Saint Leo’s Caps of Love project include: Zephyrhills Water; Nicoletti Law Firm; Trinity Church of Wesley Chapel; Pasadena Baptist Church; Tampa Downtown Lions Club; Bishop McLaughlin High School in Shady Hills;  Wesley Chapel High School; Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel; Forest High School in Marion County; First Presbyterian Church of Dade City; Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office; Hernando County Sheriff’s Office; Domino’s; Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Wellness Center; H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center; Accuform Inc.-Brooksville (Teresa Powell); Home Depot; the Hernando County Courthouse; and Inverness Christian Academy. Lowe’s provided the shipping boxes.

Area residents and businesses also stop by the university and drop off bottle caps throughout the year, D’Ambrosio said. “We have multiple supporters who drop hundreds of caps off at Campus Safety,” D’Ambrosio said.

“It was tedious work sometimes,” said Katie Krzyzanski, a junior criminal justice major. “But the end result was worth it.”

Senior Ray Melfor, a cybersecurity major, said he enjoyed helping the community. “We’re making a difference,” Melfor said. “And we’re helping the environment.”

The Caps of Love organization, which is changing its name to Chariots of Love, has presented 79 wheelchairs to children. Last year, the Saint Leo community was able to see the fruits of its labor when Woodland Elementary School (Zephyrhills, FL) student Michael Ledford was presented with a new wheelchair from the Caps of Love program. Valerie Mathieu, founder of the program, helped present the wheelchair to Michael.

“After presenting the wheelchair in July, there has definitely been an amazing atmosphere about what and why we are doing this,” D’Ambrosio said about Saint Leo University. “The students have stated that they are making a difference, one cap at a time.”